Eagles caught out at Chelsea
Written By: Robert Halter
Crystal Palace had not won at Stamford Bridge for over thirty one years and with Chelsea pressing to get within two points of League leaders Arsenal, after the Gunners 6-3 defeat at Manchester City in the earlier kick off, it was a tough task for the Eagles in mid December as they battled to get out of the relegation zone under new manager, Tony Pulis. But on sixteen minutes, the Palace resistance was broken, as Willian’s low drive was touched onto the right post by Julian Speroni but the Eagles keeper was helpless as Fernando Torres snapped up the rebound to tuck the ball away. Six minutes later, after Juan Mata’s neat layoff, Branislav Ivanovic had a clear run through on goal but blazed his shot past the far post as the Blues went in search of a second. An Eagles change was imposed as Stuart O’ Keefe took the place of Kagisho Dikgacoi. A square pass from Eden Hazard in the twenty sixth minute was met with a bending strike from Michael Essien which went wide of the left post. Although just under the half hour mark, Joel Ward’s left wing cross was caught on the volley by Marouane Chamakh, whose low strike flew past Petr Cech, to nestle in the net and bring the Eagles back into contention with a sought after equaliser. But Palace’s stranglehold on the game was short lived, as Willian played the ball out to Hazard on the left wing, who in turn supplied Ramires and in predatory fashion his bending strike turned past Speroni, into the left side of the net, to give Chelsea the advantage again, in the thirty fifth minute. Within five minutes, Adrian Mariappa failed to get the ball out of play and Hazard seized the opportunity to play through Willian but his strike failed to trouble Speroni. After three minutes of the second half had been played, Mata found himself in a perfect position from Willian’s cross but he was unable to find the right connection. In another Palace change, Yannick Bolasie took over from Barry Bannan. In the fifty first minute, Ivanovic lost the ball out to O’ Keefe in his own half, but from long range, Cameron Jerome failed to trouble Cech, as his strike drifted wide. Although three minutes later, Jason Puncheon did get a shot on target for Palace, as his strike was pushed away by Cech, after Chamakh had carved an opening in the Blues defence. With nearly an hour on the clock, Essien’s tussle with O’ Keefe, resulted in an Eagles free kick that was taken by Puncheon and met with a strong header by Damien Delaney which required a solid catch by Cech. In the first Chelsea change, Mata was switched for Oscar. On sixty two minutes, Palace stepped it up again when from Puncheon’s cross, Bolasie’s header missed the target. Ten minutes later, the Blues had a lucky escape after desperate defending when Cech clawed away O’ Keefe’s effort in the box and then a strong block by Ivanovic kept out O’ Keefe again. From Jerome’s resulting corner, a fierce header by Delaney went narrowly wide, but for all of Palace’s chances they could not get back to level terms. The Blues then changed Willian for Andre Schurrle before another late substitution of Demba Ba for Torres. In the eighty fifth minute, Ramires could have wrapped the game up for Chelsea but Speroni stood in his way, after Oscar had prized the opening. Towards the end, Chamakh made way for Dwight Gayle. Two minutes from normal time, a double save by Speroni kept the score down, as he first stopped Schurrle’s strike and then was on hand again to keep out Ba’s follow up effort, before Ramires dragged his shot wide. The victory had momentarily moved Chelsea into second spot in the table while Crystal Palace remained third from bottom.